Category Archives: Library

Anna Luce

Test Driving the Digital Public Library of America

Earlier this month, the Digital Public Library of America launched its website to much nerdy fanfare online. This online platform aims to provide a singular portal for searching and accessing digitized content from a wide array of American libraries, museums, and research institutions. Forty-two cultural organizations have collaborated so far, in an effort spearheaded by the Berkman Institute for Internet and Society at Harvard. Though the idea has been around for a while, active planning and implementation over the past two years have finally yielded some results. According to Scott McLemee’s column in Inside Higher Ed, the DPLA currently catalogs “about 2.4 million digital objects, including books, manuscripts, photographs, recorded sound, and film/video.” (Impressive for a brand new endeavor; for comparison, the Smithsonian has more than 130 million items1, and DePaul’s library has just over 1.1 million.2)

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Elisabeth Ramos-Torrescano

Cloning the Research Librarian and Other Solutions

Problem: Student–to–Research Librarian Instructor ratio is 60:1.

Solution: A collaborative effort between the faculty, research librarian, and instructional designer to design and embed online tutorials in the learning management system, Desire2Learn (D2L)…quickly.

It is mid-October and the January 2nd winter quarter start date is fast approaching. Nursing 400: Theories of Nursing will be offered as a hybrid for the first time. The instructional designer and faculty have been working feverishly to produce narrated PowerPoint lectures, embed video clips, write content and assignment instructions, develop rubrics and engaging discussion prompts, and integrate images and graphics. The course hinges on a multistep research-project assignment and the librarian instructional time is vital for students to have a successful course experience.

How will the students become familiar with the massive amount of library resources available to them vital to their research-project assignment? The research librarian usually conducts face-to-face instructional sessions on information literacy (IL) and useful library resources. However, the number of students in the winter cohort is much larger. He figures he needs two to three clones of himself to conduct all the scheduled face-to-face sessions plus advise students and tend to faculty research requests.

In comes the instructional designer. What about embedding online tutorials right into the course so that you can focus on advising students and handling special requests? Ding-ding-ding! Of course, the research librarians have already thought of this. They created a YouTube channel with tutorials about general library resources; but for this course, tutorials are needed that specifically address the research needs of nurses. The librarian, instructional designer, and faculty decide on four topics crucial to nursing students who are at this stage in their study and research novices. After input from the librarian and faculty, we get to work on the scripts and create the accompanying PowerPoint slides. The British accent of the research librarian coupled with his witty humor creates an entertaining and authoritative sounding product.

Now where to place these tutorials? We decide to create a “widget” in D2L that resides on the course home page so that students see it every time they log in and it’s quickly accessible. The faculty clearly directs students within the introductory course announcements to the tutorials that also include a short video introducing the research librarian and providing his contact information. Mid-course, we nervously solicit feedback from students via an embedded survey within the course.

Select Survey Results

6 question survey; n=20

Question 2: Did you feel successful when researching your topic after viewing the tutorials?





Not sure


Question 3: Given the option, would you have preferred online tutorials, in-person library instruction session, or both?

Online Tutorials


In-person Instruction




Open-ended Question: Would you change anything in the online tutorials? 

No, I thought the tutorial was very self-explanatory and covered all the necessary topics to adequately navigate through the DePaul library resources.

I think that everything was well covered

No, I thought it was enough to get me started, navigating things like this usually requires me to play around in it.

I thought it was very thorough. I like how it was broken up so that if we forgot something, we could go back and rewatch a section without having to rewatch the whole thing.

No, I think it would be beneficial to have the tutorials as an overview for an in-person tutorial.


In conclusion, it is helpful to look at a more comprehensive study of student content retention and the effectiveness of online tutorials versus face-to-face instruction.

Alison Brettle and Michael Raynor published a paper in Nurse Education Today titled “Developing information literacy skills in pre-registration nurses: An experimental study of teaching methods” (2012) which looked at the question of whether an “online tutorial was as good as face-to-face training for teaching IL [information literacy] skills to students nurses.” (p.2) The study of seventy-seven students added evidence to the previous claim by Carlock and Anderson (2007) that suggests online tutorials and face-to-face instruction of IL and research skills are equally effective methods.

The small student sample from NSG 400 seems to validate these findings.

We will continue to iterate the online tutorials based on student feedback and performance. It is also important to listen to that 5% who do not find the tutorials equally as helpful as face-to-face instruction; where are the gaps? We will look for solutions that capitalize on the scalability of online tutorials while integrating the irreplaceable value of face-to-face instruction. We can’t clone the research librarian, but we will continue to seek other solutions.


Brettle, A., Raynor, M. Developing information literacy skills in pre-registration nurses: An experimental study of teaching methods, Nurse Edc. Today (2012), doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2011.12.003

Melissa Koenig

Tools for Staying Current in your Field

Need an easy way to stay current in your field?  Table-of-contents services are a great way to get the tables of contents of your favorite scholarly journals delivered to you via e-mail or RSS reader.  A couple that you might want to explore include:

ticTOCS (Journal Table of Contents Service)  – TicTOCS is a free resource that allows anyone to keep up to date with newly published scholarly material.  The site is simple to use:  just register for a free account where all of the tables of contents you choose will be permanently saved.  Then, search for the titles of your favorite journals.  You can then add them to your list and export them in a format that is easily imported into Google Reader.  The site currently only has about a thousand titles, so your favorites may not be there.

Library databases (if you are not affiliated with DePaul check with your local reference librarian) – Many of the DePaul library databases allow you to create free accounts.  Once you have an account, you can set up issue alerts as well as have saved searches rerun each time the database is updated.  These alerts, depending on the service, can be made available via e-mail or RSS feed.  Some of the better ones to try are Science Direct and Ebsco.

Publisher Web sites – Most publishers allow individuals to subscribe to tables of contents without a subscription fee. If you don’t find the journal you are looking for in one of the above, check out the publisher’s Web site to see if you can get it that way.

These are just a couple of options available to you.  Ask a librarian (or if you are not affiliated with DePaul, check with your library’s reference staff) if you need help setting up an alert or finding a particular journal.

Melissa Koenig


Libx is a Web 2.0 tool that connects you to the university library while exploring the web. Available for Firefox and Internet Explorer, this plug-in is customized especially for DePaul and pops a handy little search bar across the top of your browser window, so you can quickly and easily search the library catalog or check on whether the library has the journal you need online or in print.


Even better, when searching for titles from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or many other sites, you will see a little DePaul icon next to the book title allowing you to see if it is available in the DePaul Library.


In addition, you can highlight any word or phrase in a web page and right-click to search the library catalog for that item or drag-and-drop onto the ‘Scholar’ button in the toolbar to generate a search in Google Scholar.


Speaking of Google Scholar, if you set your scholar preferences to include library links from DePaul,


your scholar results will have ‘find full text’ buttons.


Now you are never more than a click or two away from finding out whether the library has what you’re looking for.

Give it a try!

For Firefox:

For Internet Explorer:

(More general information at:

Melissa Koenig

The Next Best Thing to Your Own Personal Librarian

Daniel’s recent posts focused on social bookmarking tools, which use the power of social networking to help users find websites that suit their interests. On a similar note, I thought I’d share one of my favorite tools, LibraryThing, which serves a similar purpose for books. For those not familiar with this resource, it is an online service that allows people to keep and share their favorite (or least favorite) books. A free account allows you to catalog up to 200 books. Paid accounts allow you to catalog as many as you wish and start at $10 for a year or just $25 for a lifetime!

Even if you don’t keep your own list of books, LibraryThing is a great resource for finding just the right book for a lazy day at the beach or for a classroom assignment. Its strength lies in the tags that members have provided to categorize their entries. As any librarian will tell you, readers advisory—the practice of recommending books based on a reader’s interests—is a fine art. For example, knowing that you like Harry Potter, a good advisor should be able to tell you that you should also like the Bartimaeus Trilogy. Similarly, a good advisor might be able to recommend esoteric literature with a particular theme, e.g., Chick Lit that takes place in Greece.

My favorite way to find books on LibraryThing is to search using tags (which are the same as key words). If you want to combine tags, you can separate your key concepts with commas. This search is called a tagmash, and it can provide you with some interesting results. For example, a search for World War II fiction retrieves some expected and some unexpected results, including: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, Atonement by Ian McEwan, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden and Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson.

Once you find a title you want to read, you can connect with your local library catalog via the WorldCat link. Before you know it you will be enjoying a new book that you might have otherwise never discovered.